Women journalists who seek to unearth the truth in Zimbabwe face violence and threats to their lives in their line of duty, a challenge that keeps emanating year in and year out, it can be established.
As the world commemorates World Press Freedom Day, it is disturbing to note that Freedom of expression is expensive in Zimbabwe as women journalists continue to be harassed by members of the police force as well as machete gangs who operates under instruction from political figures.
“We fear being manhandled and forced into vehicles and driven away to unknown destinations to be tortured over our work. Though it can be argued that our male counterparts face the same experiences, it should also be noted that our bodies are ravished by not just one, or two or three men when held captive, often times it is difficult to share these experiences because we are afraid of abducted again,” said a female journalist who requested for anonymity.
“Oftentimes as female journalists we battle mental health challenges that include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and more difficult situations that results from the work that we do. Unlike the mainstream media where if a journalist is harassed it goes viral on social media, the case is different with us as community journalists, I will be harassed and nothing happens,” added another journalist who cannot be named.
Furthermore, the reports of female journalist from Kwekwe, Chipo Gudhe of The Midlands Observer who was manhandled and threatened by political activist and Chengeto Chidi of Alpha Media Holdings who was arrested in her line of duty also speaks volume about the challenges that female journalists face during their work.
Gender and Media Connect National Coordinator Abigail Gamanya, spoke on the challenges that female journalists face. She also gave advice on the need to raise awareness both online and offline as a way to promote safety and security of female journalists.
“Female journalist are suffering in silence because they are afraid of the consequences they face after reporting the abuse they are facing, some lost their jobs during the process, the backlash from work, partner and the society and also some female journalist are not aware of where to report their issues to.
“The issue of raising awareness on female journalists’ safety and security must not rest on non-governmental organizations only, it is also the duty of newsrooms to raise awareness to all their workers so that they will be aware of their surroundings, giving them basic orientation so that they will know how best they can take care of themselves,” said Gamanya.
Meanwhile, Polite Ndhlovu the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Kwekwe Chapter Chairperson, also talked about the challenges of patriarchy that still exists in this modern world as female journalists are fighting patriarchy from their bedrooms to newsrooms, they play many roles.
“Journalism for women is for the brave, female journalists are fighting patriarchy from their bedrooms to newsrooms, they are mothers playing so many roles, daughters, sisters, workers trying to satisfy men in all fronts,” he said.
Ndlovhu further highlighted that female journalist are also being used as bets to win sources or as sex tools in newsrooms, and this is affecting their safety as some female journalist end up being sexually harassed. He said there is need for more awareness to educate female journalists on their roles in the newsrooms and what they should do, and also who they should approach in case of a challenge that they may incur.
Male dominance is rampant in many newsrooms in Africa as well as in media leadership positions, this gender imparity reflects the persistence of patriarchy and heteronormative beliefs in the Zimbabwean society, despite the country’s constitution upholding gender mainstreaming and principles of equality.